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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

Perennial herb with 1-several unbranched stems, up to 70 cm. Leaves opposite, sessile, oblong-elliptic to lanceolate, 4-12 cm long, hairless; margin entire. Flowers c. 2.5 cm in diameter, in dense terminal heads. Calyx tubular up to 2 cm long, cylindric with 5 reddish teeth. Petals 5, pink or white.
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© Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten and Petra Ballings

Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

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Description

This introduced perennial plant is about 1–2½' tall and more or less erect. From the axils of the upper leaves, some short side stems are produced, otherwise it is little branched. The stems are round and hairless. The opposite leaves are up to 4" long and 1¾" across. They are ovate or broadly lanceolate, smooth along the margins, and hairless. There are 3 conspicuous veins on the upper surface of the larger leaves. The leaves are sessile against the stem, otherwise they have short broad petioles. The central stem and some of the uppermost side stems terminate in small clusters of flowers.  Each flower is about ¾–1" across, consisting of a long cylindrical calyx that is green and a corolla with 5 spreading petals that are white or light pink. The calyx is hairless and about 1" long. At the base of each petal, there are 2 claws that are small and slender. The 10 stamens are strongly exerted from the throat of the corolla; they are white with pale yellow anthers. As the flowers age, the petals begin to curve backward. The blooming period occurs during the summer and lasts about 2 months. There is a pleasant floral scent. A sack-like capsule of seeds lies within the calyx of each flower. These seeds are somewhat flat and nearly round along the perimeter, with an outer surface that is granular or pebble-like. The root system produces abundant orange rhizomes. This plant spreads by reseeding itself and vegetatively through the rhizomes. It often forms colonies. Cultivation
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Miscellaneous Details

"Notes: Western Ghats, Cultivated, Native of Eurasia"
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Distribution

Worldwide distribution

Native to southern Europe and Asia as far as western Siberia. Naturalized in many regions of the world.
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Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

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Range and Habitat in Illinois

Soapwort is a common plant that occurs in most counties of Illinois (see Distribution Map). It was originally introduced into the United States from Europe for horticultural purposes. Habitats include sloping banks of streams, gravel bars and sand bars along streams, areas along roadsides and railroads, prairie remnants along railroads, weedy meadows, and waste areas. Soapwort is still cultivated in flowerbeds and herbal gardens. While this plant is typically found in disturbed areas, it also occurs in some natural areas, where it can become a pest. Faunal Associations
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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Tamil Nadu: Dindigul
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introduced; Alta., B.C., Man., N.B., Nfld. and Labr. (Nfld.), N.S., Ont., P.E.I., Que., Sask.; Ala., Ariz., Ark., Calif., Colo., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Idaho, Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., La., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., Mont., Nebr., Nev., N.H., N.J., N.Mex., N.Y., N.C., N.Dak., Ohio, Okla., Oreg., Pa., R.I., S.C., S.Dak., Tenn., Tex., Utah, Vt., Va., Wash., W.Va., Wis., Wyo.; Eurasia; introduced in Mexico, South America, Asia (India), Africa (Egypt), Australia.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Plants perennial, colonial. Stems erect, simple or branched distally, 30-90 cm. Leaves: petiole often absent or winged, 0.1-1.5 cm; blade strongly 3(-5)-veined, elliptic to oblanceolate or ovate, 3-11(-15) × 1.5-4.5 cm. Cymes dense to open. Pedicels 1-5 mm. Flowers sometimes double; calyx green or reddish, often cleft, 15-25 mm, glabrous or rarely with scattered trichomes; petals pink to white, often drying to dull purple, blade 8-15 mm. Capsules ca. 15-20 mm. Seeds 1.6-2 mm wide. 2n = 28.
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Description

Herbs perennial, 30--70 cm tall. Axial root stout, fleshy, rhizome thin, many branched. Stem simple or branched above, usually glabrous. Leaves ovate or ovate-lanceolate, 5--10 × 2--4 cm, 3- or 5-veined, base attenuate, slightly connate, semiclasping, apex acute. Inflorescence a thyrse, cymules 3--7-flowered; bracts lanceolate, margin and midvein sparsely hirtellous, apex long acuminate. Pedicel 3--8 mm, sparsely and shortly pubes-cent. Flowers large. Calyx green, sometimes dark purple, tubular, 1.8--2 cm × 2.5--3.5 mm, obscurely 20-veined; calyx teeth broadly ovate, apex acute. Petal limb white or pink, cuneate-obovate, 1--1.5 cm, apex emarginate; coronal scales linear. Gynophore ca. 1 mm. Stamens and styles exserted. Capsule cylindric-ovoid, ca. 1.5 cm. Seeds black-brown, globose-reniform, slightly compressed, 1.8--2 mm, tuberculate. Fl. Jun--Sep. 2n = 30.
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Diagnostic Description

Diagnostic

Habit: Herb
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Synonym

Lychnis officinalis (Linnaeus) Scopoli; Silene saponaria Fries ex Willkomm & Lange.
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Soapwort is a common plant that occurs in most counties of Illinois (see Distribution Map). It was originally introduced into the United States from Europe for horticultural purposes. Habitats include sloping banks of streams, gravel bars and sand bars along streams, areas along roadsides and railroads, prairie remnants along railroads, weedy meadows, and waste areas. Soapwort is still cultivated in flowerbeds and herbal gardens. While this plant is typically found in disturbed areas, it also occurs in some natural areas, where it can become a pest. Faunal Associations
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Waste places, streamsides, fields, roadsides; 0-2600m.
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Habitat & Distribution

Cultivated as an ornamental in parks, usually escaping. NE China [native to W Asia and Europe].
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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Soapwort in Illinois

Saponaria officinalis (Soapwort) introduced
(Butterflies suck nectar; one observation is from Grundel & Pavlovic as indicated below, otherwise the observations are from Robertson)

Butterflies
Lycaenidae: Lycaeides melissa samuelis (GP); Papilionidae: Papilio troilus; Pieridae: Pontia protodice

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Foodplant / spot causer
Alternaria dematiaceous anamorph of Alternaria saponariae causes spots on live leaf of Saponaria officinalis

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / pathogen
embedded sorus of Microbotryum saponariae infects and damages live anther of Saponaria officinalis

Foodplant / saprobe
scattered or in short rows, pycnidium of Phomopsis coelomycetous anamorph of Phomopsis intermedia is saprobic on dead, locally bleached stem of Saponaria officinalis
Remarks: season: 3-4

Foodplant / spot causer
crowded, mostly epiphyllous, fuscous pycnidium of Septoria coelomycetous anamorph of Septoria saponariae causes spots on live leaf of Saponaria officinalis

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering spring-fall.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Saponaria officinalis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Saponaria officinalis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 9
Specimens with Barcodes: 18
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Wikipedia

Saponaria officinalis

"Bouncing Bet" redirects here. For the World War II German landmine commonly known as the "Bouncing Betty", see S-mine.

Saponaria officinalis is a common perennial plant from the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae). This plant has many common names,[2] including common soapwort,[3] bouncing-bet,[3] crow soap,[2] wild sweet William,[2] and soapweed.[4] There are about 20 species of soapworts altogether.

The scientific name Saponaria is derived from the Latin sapo (stem sapon-) meaning "soap," which, like its common name, refers to its utility in cleaning. From this same Latin word is derived the name of the toxic substance saponin, contained in the roots at levels up to 20 percent when the plant is flowering[5] (Indian soapnuts contain only 15 percent). It produces a lather when in contact with water. The epithet officinalis indicates its medicinal functions.

Saponaria officinalis's native range extends throughout Europe to western Siberia. It grows in cool places at low or moderate elevations under hedgerows and along the shoulders of roadways.

Description[edit]

The plants possesses leafy, unbranched stems (often tinged with red). It grows in patches, attaining a height of 70 cm. The broad, lanceolate, sessile leaves are opposite and between 4 and 12 cm long. Its sweetly scented flowers are radially symmetrical and pink, or sometimes white. Each of the five flat petals have two small scales in the throat of the corolla. They are about 2.5 cm wide. They are arranged in dense, terminal clusters on the main stem and its branches. The long tubular calyx has five pointed red teeth.

The individual flowers open in the evening, and stay open for about three days.[6] They produce a stronger scent at night and supplement nectar production during the night.[6] The flowers are protandrous: on the second night of blooming, the pollen is released, and the stigma develops to its final position by the third night.[6] Much of the seed production comes from self-pollination.[6] The flowers are visited by various insects including Noctuidae, Sphingidae, bumblebees, and hoverflies.[6]

In the northern hemisphere Saponaria officinalis blooms from May to September, and in the southern hemisphere October to March.

Saponaria officinalis in Prague botanical garden

External use[edit]

As its common name implies, it can be used as a very gentle soap, usually in dilute solution. It has historically been used to clean delicate or unique textiles; it has been hypothesized that the plant was used to treat the Shroud of Turin.[7]

A lathery liquid that has the ability to dissolve fats or grease can be procured by boiling the leaves or roots in water. Take a large handful of leaves, bruise and chop them and boil for 30 minutes in 1 pint/600ml of water; strain off the liquid and use this as you would washing-up liquid.[8]

In the Romanian village of Sieu-Odorhei, natives call the plant "Sǎpunele". It is traditionally used by the villagers as a soap replacement for dry skin.

Internal use[edit]

An overdose can cause nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting.[citation needed]

Despite its toxic potential, Saponaria officinalis finds culinary use as an emulsifier in the commercial preparation of tahini halva,[9] and in brewing to create beer with a good "head". In India, the rhizome is used as a galactagogue.[10]

In the Middle East, the root is often used as an additive in the process of making the popular sweet, halvah. The plant is called ‘erq al halaweh in Arabic, çöven in Turkish, and is utilized to stabilize the oils in the mixture or to create a distinctive texture of halvah.

Chemistry[edit]

S. officinalis contains the flavone saponarin.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". 
  2. ^ a b c "Royal Horticultural Society Plant Selector". 
  3. ^ a b "USDA GRIN Taxonomy". 
  4. ^ Paul Slichter. "The Pink Family in the Columbia River Gorge: Caryophyllaceae". 
  5. ^ Farmakognosia, by Raimo Hiltunen (in finnish)
  6. ^ a b c d e Wolff, D.; Witt, T.; Jurgens, A.; Gottsberger, G. (2006). "Nectar dynamics and reproductive success in Saponaria officinalis (Caryophyllaceae) in southern Germany". Flora. Morphologie, Geobotanik, Oekophysiologie 201 (5): 353–364. doi:10.1016/j.flora.2005.07.010. 
  7. ^ Shroud of Turin. (PDF) . Retrieved on 2012-06-03.
  8. ^ Mabey, Richard; 'Plants with a Purpose: A guide to the everyday use of wild plants', William Collins, Fontana, Glasgow, 1977
  9. ^ Alice Arndt (10 August 1999). Seasoning Savvy: How to Cook With Herbs, Spices, and Other Flavorings. Psychology Press. pp. 215–. ISBN 978-1-56022-031-2. Retrieved 3 June 2012. 
  10. ^ Purple Sage page on Soapwort. Purplesage.org.uk (2012-04-01). Retrieved on 2012-06-03.
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Notes

Comments

Saponaria officinalis, long cultivated for its showy flowers, is a widely naturalized, sometimes troublesome weed. It may persist for years about abandoned home sites. “Double”-flowered horticultural forms, which may lack functional stamens, also occur in the wild, where locally they may be as common as, or even more common than, “single”-flowered forms.  

In former times, the leaves of this species were gathered and either soaked or boiled in water, the resulting liquid being used for washing as a liquid soap. Because of its saponin content, the species can be poisonous upon ingestion, in much the same manner as Agrostemma githago.

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Comments

This species is used medicinally and as a soap.
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